Implementing RFID in Library: Methodologies, Advantages and Disadvantages

Narayanan A., Sanjay Singh and Somasekharan M.

A library is a growing organism. As it grows in size the problems associated with the maintenance and security of the documents also grows. The researchers have always helped the librarian in solving their problems. To solve the problems of arranging documents in order they have given classification schemes. To solve the problems of searching documents they have given cataloging guidelines. To solve the problems of space and time they have taught librarians to digitize the documents and share over network. To automate the counter activities they gave us bar-codes. Bar-codes have served the librarians and libraries for a long time, and now it is slowly getting replaced by RFID. This paper discovers the technology, implementation methodologies, advantages and disadvantages of RFID in Library.

1. Introduction RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) invented in 1969, patented in 1973, first used in harsh industrial environment in 1980s’, and standards presented in 2001, is the latest addition of technology to be used in the libraries for a combination of automation and security activities in the well maintenance of documents either inside the library or goes out-of library. RFID uses wireless radio communications to uniquely
identify objects or people, and is one of the fastest growing automatic data collection (ADC) technologies, which is comprising one or more reader/interrogators and RF transponders

in which data transfer is achieved by means of suitably modulated inductive or radiating electro-magnetic carriers. In addition it can be used as a data carrier, with information being written and updated to the tag on the fly. RFID systems carry data in suitable transponders, generally known as tags, and retrieve data, by machine-readable means, at a suitable time and place to satisfy particular application needs. RFID is a combination of radio-frequency and microchip. RFI chips are of particular interest, because they have become smaller and smarter to the point where they can be added every kind of document and can be read and updated from a distance [1]. The data capacities of transponder normally range from a few bytes to several kilobytes. There are also 1-bit transponder (without chip) to fulfill monitoring and signaling functions called Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS). In writable transponders, the reader can write data to the transponder in three procedures. Inductively coupled RFID system uses EEPROMs, FRAMs and microwave systems commonly use SRAMs. The important feature of power supply to the transponder is drawn either from the field of reader (Passive tag) or from the battery incorporated in the tag (Active/Semi-active tag).

___________________________________________________________________________________ Scientific Information Resource Division, IGCAR, Kalpakkam,


The information contained on microchips in the tags affixed to library materials is read using radio frequency technology regardless of item orientation or alignment. track. This contrasts with a barcode label. sort or detect library holdings at the circulation desk and in the daily stock maintenance. hardware and software. The staff checkout station is used when patrons prefer staff assistance. The tag consists of an etched antenna and a tiny chip which stores vital bibliographic data including a unique Accession number to identify each item. a set of security gates. provides libraries with more effective way of managing their collections while providing greater customer service to their patrons. approximately 2”X2” in size. The shelving station speeds the process of sorting the returned books for reshelving. The book drop allows returned books to be processed instantly by updating the database the moment the items pass through the chute. for example. they use the power from the initial radio signal to transmit their response. The self-checkout station allows patrons to borrow books without assistance from the library staff. The shelf scanner allows library staff to take inventory and find wrongly shelved books without having to pull the books off the stacks. a tagging station. security of materials. without need for line of sight. RFID has no concerns about harsh environments that restrict other auto ID technologies such as bar codes. Most RFID tags have no batteries. A middleware or Savant software integrates the reader hardware with the existing Library Automation Software for seamless functioning of circulation. 272 . but merely points to a database. which does not store any information. a self-return book drop with an automatic check-in feature. stock verification and shelf handling. This system. RFID Technology in Libraries The concept of RFID can be simplified to that of an electronic barcode and can be used to identify. a self check-out station. easier and faster charging and discharging of documents. It provides a contact less data link. the books require much less human handling to be read and processed. consist of smart RFID labels. a shelf scanner for inventory and an administrative station. RFID tag’s transponder listen for a radio query from the reader and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. RFID-based systems have been implemented for efficient document tracking purpose through out the libraries that combine. These smart labels are applied directly on library books and can be read with an RFID interrogator/scanner. therefore. a staff check-out station. an RFID system requires a means for reading or "interrogating" the tags to obtain the stored data and then some means of communicating this tag data to library information system. 2. The technology works through flexible. In addition to tags. which allows it to be placed inconspicuously on the inside cover of each book in a library’s collection. Tags have a discrete memory capacity that varies from 96 bits to 2kbytes.1 RFID Components Normally a RFID package for library consists of eight components: RFID tags.2. inventorying. the documents in the shelves or cardboard boxes can be checked without removing or opening. Line of sight is not essential for reading the tags with the scanner. paper-thin smart labels.

Once the tag has decoded the signal as valid.2 How Tags Communicate The communication process between the reader and the tag is by wireless. Any corresponding tag in the vicinity of the reader will detect the signal and use the energy from it. The wavelength is the distance covered by one cycle of a wave. For any electromagnetic wave. How RFID Works Figure-1 3. When these tags pass through a Radio Field generated by a reader. The frequency is the number of waves passing a given point in one second. Each tag has a certain amount of internal memory(EEPROM) in which it stores information about the object. the wavelength multiplied by the frequency equals the speed of light. 273 . to wake up and supply operating power to its internal circuits.3. One Hz equals one wave per second. it replies to the reader and indicates its presence by modulating (affecting) the reader field.1 RFID systems: In typical system tags are attached to objects. Basically what happens is that when the reader is switched on it starts emitting a signal at the selected frequency band (in library HF is used with 13. The major differences between the different types of waves are the distances covered by one cycle of the wave and the number of waves that pass a certain point during a set time period. 3. the transponder in the tag transmit the stored information back to the reader.56 MHz). or in some cases more details of bibliographic data and product composition. The frequency of an RF signal is usually expressed in units called hertz (Hz). such as its unique ID. thereby identifying the object.

4 Tag IC’s A single-chip design led to the RFID tag. which is recognized as the key factor for wide spread adoption of RFID. This process continues under the control of anti-collision algorithm until all tags have been selected. an antenna. and an optional power source. After finishing dialoging with the tag the reader can then either remove it from the list. product. a small device composed of a chip. The number of tags that can be identified depends on the frequency and protocol used. or in the case of a read/write tag write information to it. The 1990s witnessed the use of such tags for card-keys. Most RFID tags contain a certain amount of NVM (non-volatile memory) like EEPROM in order to store data. that carries a unique identifier. The EPC is similar in concept the UPC used in barcodes today. and can range from just simple identifier numbers of around 96 bits to more information about the product with up to 32Kbits.3. fuel-station payment systems. the EPC is a 96 bit unique number which is divided into numbers that identify the manufacturer. In 1999 the AUTO-ID centre (now EPC Global) based at the MITUSA. The reader manages this problem by using an anti-collision algorithm designed to allow tags to be sorted and individually selected. Having just a simple code of up to 256 bits would lead to smaller chip size. Such tags were typically specialized for a certain class of 274 . and typically range from 50 tags/s for HF and up to 200 tags/s for UHF. together with the number leading companies developed the idea of an unique electronic identifier code called the EPC(Electronic Product Code). Like a barcode. 3. managing noisy RF signals and keeping within strict emission regulations. or put it on the stand by until a later time. version and serial number. Other important function of the circuit is to allow the chip to transfer power from the reader signal field. which at the reader end is seen as a signal collision and an indication of multiple tags. Once a tag is selected the reader is able to perform a number of operations such as read the tags identifier number. and convert it via a rectifier into supply voltage. The amount of data stored depends on the chip specification. and automated toll payment. and hence lower tag cost.3 Anti-collision If many tags are present (in a row of books) then they will all reply at the same time. In fact very real challenges for the ICs’exist such as achieving very low power consumption. The chip clock is also normally extracted from the reader signal.

3.5. pressure and motion. Following this no further writes are allowed and the tag can only be read. where the data.1 Class 0: Read only – factory programmed. 3. 275 . which is usually a simple id number is written only once into the tags during manufacture. This leads to the following four classes and EPC global has also defined five classes which are similar to the one below: 3.Factory or user programmed.3 Class 2: Read-Write – This most flexible type of tag.2 Class 1: Write Once Read Many(WORM) . Basic Tag IC architecture 3. They typically used as data loggers. Data can then either be written by manufacturer or by the user – one time. the tags are either semi-passive or active. The memory is then disabled from any further updates.applications and cost a few dollars each. and there fore contain more memory space than what is needed for just a simple id number.5. As sensor readings must be taken in the absence of a reader. Tags of this type usually act as simple identifiers. which can be recorded by writing into the tags memory. In this case tag is manufactured with no data written in to the memory. and only announce their presence when passing through an antenna field. These are simplest type of tags. Class 0 is also used to define a category of tags called EAS or anti-theft devices which have no id. The tags typically stored application-specifc data and were capable of modest processing on-tag [2].5. where user have access to read and write data into the tags memory. 3.4 Class 3: Read-Write (with on board sensors) – These tags contain on board sensors for recording parameters like temperature. Figure – 2.5.5 Tag Classes: one of the main ways of categorizing RFID tags is by the capability to read and write data.

and is still obliged to use the reader field to communicate back to the reader. active tags generate RF energy and apply to the antenna. 3. resulting in greater distance of up to 100meters. • Semi-passive (battery assisted back scatter) tags have build in batteries and therefore do not require energy from the reader field to power the chip. steam…) • polarization – what will be tag orientation with the respect to the reader field • exposure to different temperature ranges • communication distance • influence of the materials such as metals and liquids 276 . and should take into account many of the factors listed below: • Size and form factor – where does the tag have to fit? • How close the tags be to each other • Durability – will the tag need to have a strong outer protection against regular wear and tear • Is the tag re-usable • Resistance to harsh environment(corrosive. • Active tags are battery powered devices that have an active transmitter onboard. The available power from the reader field. This large difference in communication performance can be explained by the following. This autonomy from the reader means that they can communicate at the distance of over several KMs.3. whilst the other types of tags (semi-passive and active) can achieve much greater distance of up to 100m for semi-passive.6 Active and Passive tags: First basic choice when considering a tag is either passive or semi-passive or active.5. This allows them to function with much lower signal power levels. Selecting tags: Choosing the right for a particular RFID applications is an important consideration. Passive tags can be read at a distance of up to 4 – 5 m using UHF frequency band. • passive tags use the reader field as a source of energy for the chip and for the communication from and to the reader. This means that they are completely active with their own battery power source. Table No. resulting in a limited communication distance of 4 -5 m when using UHF frequency band (860 MHz – 930 MHz) . and several KM for active. Unlike passive tags. not only reduce very rapidly with distance but is also controlled by the strict regulations.5 Class 4: Read-Write (with Integrated Transmitters) – These are like miniature radio devices which can communicate with other tags and devices without the presence of the reader.2 : Different Tag Classes Memory Power source None/EPC-1bit on/off Read only Read-Write Read-write Read-write Passive Any Any Semi passive/active Active class 0 1 2 3 4 Known as EAS/EPC EPC EPC Sensor tags Smart Dust Applications Anti-theft/ID Identification Data logging sensors Ad hoc networking 4. Distance is limited mainly due to the fact that tag does not have an integrated transmitter.

HF. UHF.• • • • • • • • environment(electrical noise other radio device and equipments) operating frequencies(LF.000 read/write • RFID can have theft bit which can be in two states “ON/OFF” • Shelf verification/rectification can be done on daily basis • More information can be written in the RFID tag on incremental basis • Need not open/remove books to capture information • Items are identified on upper and lower shelves more comfortably 277 . MW) supported communication standards and protocols regional regulations(Europe..1 Difference between Barcode and RFID • Information can be read from RFID tags much faster than from barcodes • Several items in a stack/counter can be read at the same time using RFID • Items do not have to be handled one-by-one nor removed from the shelves • Inventory-taking is no longer a tedious operation • RFID can stand more than 10. Asia. USA.) will tag data need to store more than just an id number like an EPC anti-collision how many tags in the field at the same time how quickly must they be detected how fast will tags move through the reader field does the tag need to have security data protection by encryption reader support – which readers products are able to read the tag read the tag 4.

2 Readers: A typical RFID system includes three different kinds of readers. activates an alarm if the material is not properly checked-out.1 Retrospective conversion of already existing stack requires a "programmer" or "conversion station. converting the barcodes. number of volumes. It is then not necessary to communicate with the circulation database. 278 . The security system will work even though the online library server is not working. It is essential that the tasks be rotated so that no one repeats the same motions over an extended period of time. The fixing of tags to documents can be initially outsourced then in house arrangement can be done after proper training. old system in practice can be continued. it should significantly reduce losses and facilitate tracking of items in technical services. (i)The types of readers include staff workstations for circulation desk charging and discharging. Preprogrammed tags. and longer-range walk-through exit sensors to detect and read an RFID tag passage for purposes of determining whether it is a charged or discharged. The reader should be able to read the other manufacturers RFID Tags. reader and software should be thoroughly investigated. take even less time because they do not involve scanning existing barcodes. and inserting the tags among at least three people. Almost all libraries tag new acquisitions as part of the cataloging process. libraries that have experienced losses of unprocessed library materials from technical services. Implementation of RFID: The methodology for implementation can be divided into many phases taking into consideration of budget provision. While inadvertent duplicates cannot then be returned. The speed of conversion can be increased by dividing responsibility for removing and replacing library materials. The server. which are used for new acquisitions in libraries that want only identification numbers on the tags. types of items meant for circulation. might consider doing the tagging at the time of receipt in acquisitions. These devices designed to detect and read tags to obtain the information stored thereon. including affixing the tags to library materials. the types of document holdings. Since the technology is new to Indian library environment proper demonstration of the system can be arranged and should visit the library where the system is successfully running. The tags can be over layered with the self adhesive sticker containing the logo of the library or the institution for longer life. The provision for reading the existing barcode in the document can be made and the required data can downloaded by interacting with the present database and can be written to the tag. tags." The conversion of existing barcoded items. 5. after checking against the circulation database. 5. and the number and types member the institution has. (ii)RFID exit sensors at exits are of two types. Care should be taken to integrate the library automation package while detailed tender specification are drawn. Until sufficient confidence is gained with the system. While evaluating the tender the past experience of firm supplying the equipment. takes 15-30 seconds per item depending on the amount of information added to the tag and the skill of the person doing the tagging. however. one reads the information on the tag(s) going by and communicates that information to a server.5. Another type relies on a "theft" byte in the tag that is turned on or off to show that the item has been charged or not. also known as sensors or scanner/wand. patron self-charging stations.

6. If the patron card also has an RFID tag. 6. 6. this application has not been widely used. Patron self-discharging shifts that work from staff to patrons. 6. The most significant time savings are attributable to the facts that information can be read from RFID tags much faster than from barcodes and that several items in a stack can be read at the same time.4 High-speed inventorying: unique advantage of RFID systems is their ability to scan books on the shelves without tipping them out or removing them. or it can go to a unit which will transmit it to the server using wireless technology. Staff is relieved further when readers are installed in bookdrops.7 Fast Track Circulation Operation The use of RFID reduces the amount of time required to perform circulation operations.000 transactions before a tag may need to be replaced. the library will also be able to determine who removed the items without properly charging them. RFID tags last longer than barcodes because nothing comes into contact with them. A hand-held inventory reader can be moved rapidly across a shelf of books to read all of the unique identification information. the anti-collision algorithm that allows an entire stack to be charged or discharged now appears to be working well. This includes conveyor and sorting systems that can move library materials and sort them by category into separate bins or onto separate carts. This is done by designating a bit as the "theft" bit and turning it off at time of charge and on at time of discharge. but also to identify items which are out of proper order. can be moved along the items on the shelves without touching them.(iii)The portable scanner or inventory wand.5 Automated materials handling: Another application of RFID technology is automated materials handling. The most significant time savings are attributable to the facts that information can be read from RFID tags much faster than from barcodes and that 279 . there is a marked improvement because they do not have to carefully place materials within a designated template and they can charge several items at the same time. Were a patron to run out of the library and not be intercepted. 6. Advantages of RFID systems : 6. it is possible not only to update the inventory.2 Simplified patron self-charging/discharging: For patrons using self-charging. While initially unreliable. the library would at least know what had been stolen. 6. Most RFID vendors claim a minimum of 100.1 Rapid charging/discharging: The use of RFID reduces the amount of time required to perform circulation operations. Some RFID systems have an interface between the exit sensors and the circulation system to identify the items moving out of the library. 6. which can be downloaded at a docking station or a server later on.3 High reliability: The readers are highly reliable. Using wireless technology.6 Long tag life: Finally. Given the high cost of the equipment. The data goes to a storage unit. This significantly reduces the amount of staff time required to ready materials for reshelving.

A library can also imprint the RFID tags with its logo and make them appear to be bookplates. often correlates with price. Evaluating RFID from different vendors It is potentially overwhelming to evaluate competitive offerings of a new technology.several items in a stack can be read at the same time. 7. and check-in processes. it can insert the RFID tags in the spines of all except thin books. the information stored in the tag’s memory cannot be changed. once the tag is programmed. All RFID vendors in the library market offer a product with anti-collision (the ability to read several tags simultaneously). 8. Current offerings provide the choice between a purely RFID solution. This relates specifically to inventory management with a hand-held reader.1 High cost: The major disadvantage of RFID technology is its cost. It is also possible to compromise an RFID system by placing two items against one another so that one tag overlays another. will vary.1 Read/Write vs. 8. As a first step. However. If a library wishes. and the total number of tags that can be read.3.2 Vulnerability to compromise: It is possible to compromise an RFID system by wrapping the household foil to block the radio signal.3 Tag functionality 8. the speed at which this can be performed.2 Tag memory capacity More memory is not necessarily better than less . the anti-collision algorithm that allows an entire stack to be charged or discharged now appears to be working well.1 Security feature The same RFID tag used to manage inventory can also be used to protect it from theft. While initially unreliable. Alternatively.3 Removal of exposed tags: The RFID Tags can not be concealed in either spine or gutter of the books and are exposed for removal. and data transmission speed. 7. or RFID with an EM (electro-magnetic) add-on for theft. 8. consider what information you need to program into each tag. That is. 7. and then discuss with vendors.3. hence the following guide lists some of the characteristics to be considered. This requires knowledge of the technology and careful alignment. or it can put a printed cover label over each tag.2 Anti-collision • 280 . information stored in the memory of read/write tags can be updated as required. Read Only • Some vendors offer tags which can only be “written to” once. however. That may cancel out the signals. 8. Disadvantages of RFID Systems: 7. not all RFID tags are flexible enough.

5. it makes good economic sense. the technology is still not yet widely understood or installed in the library environment. “RFID Handbook. Klaus Finkenzeller.3 EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) mechanism • As mentioned above. as the early adopters of this technology have shown that. This approach varies from vendor to vendor – the security mechanism may be integrated into the chip itself.85 to over US$1 per tag. the infrastructure requirement also varies. its application.html 281 . 2003." References: 1. al. Chawathe . 2004. p2. 2. Canada. and innovation are constantly changing. John Wiley.html. wider reading ranges.3. 02. “A Basic introduction to RFID Technology and its use in the supply Chain”. both for large and small libraries. Pune. URL:www. by Infotek Software & Systems PLtd. Conclusion Though the unique advantages and flexibility of RFID is the good news. Its adoption is still relatively new and hence there are many features of the technology that are not well understood by the general populace. and faster processing. 2nd Edn” .chyp. The emerging standard for library RFID solutions is to employ a frequency of 13. However. India. As quoted in “News Comment – Contact less crazy” in Journal: Card Technology. “RFID Survival” as viewed on 25-03-2005 at URL: http://www.”Managing RFID Data” Proceedings of the 30th VLDB Conference. 7. Ashim A Patil. RFID can be used to prevent theft in the library. 6. February 2005. with more libraries joining the trails.8. 3.4 Cost • • 8. pub by Elsevier. and the cost/ROI models far from established.translated by Rachel Warrington. Sudarshan S. 8. Steve as visited on 1-2-2005.56MHz. or security gates may be linked to a separate server which interrogates the database to conclude whether an alarm needs to be triggered. However. no formal standards are currently in place [6]. Expect to pay from US$0. The price of hardware (per unit) varies extensively from different suppliers.biblio-tech. “i-TEK RFID Based Library Management Suite” a White paper. Dave Brich at Consultant Hyperion. standardization. 2004.5 Standards • 9. The interest in RFID as a solution to optimize further the automation and tracking of documents are gathering momentum at an increasing pace. Developments in RFID technology continue to yield larger memory capacities. White paper by LARAN RFID Jan 2004. "RFID is increasing in popularity among libraries. RFID. “RFID for Libraries” as viewed on 01-03-2005 at URL: http://www.rfidsurvival. April.